A Milesburg man faces more than a year and a half in jail on animal cruelty charges for allowing a herd of beef cattle to starve over the winter on his farm.
Thomas Shawley, 56, was convicted Monday on 28 summary charges during a trial before District Judge Allen Sinclair in Philipsburg.
Shawley, who failed to appear for the trial, was sentenced to serve one year and seven months to four years and nine months in jail, according to prosecutors.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, who was present at the trial and participated in the investigation, asked Sinclair for consecutive sentences for each summary violation.
“We are very pleased with the sentence,” Parks Miller said in a statement. “It is utterly reprehensible that someone who took on this responsibility would allow these animals to suffer in agony day in and day out for weeks, maybe months on end.
Prosecutors said the state Department of Agriculture and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was called in February to investigate complaints of animal abuse.
A badly malnourished herd of cattle was found in an enclosed, muddy field on the Burnside Township farm with no available food.
Several cattle were lying dead in the field, covered with snow. Others were so emaciated that their bones could be seen through their winter coats, prosecutors said.
Some sets of calves and their mothers were among the dead. Bone marrow from the calves was later tested to determine levels of malnutrition.
Prosecutors said the tests revealed “startlingly low” bone marrow content, indicating the animals had burned through almost all their fat in place of food.
The surviving animals were taken from the property, and some recovered.
Shawley allegedly told authorities he hadn’t provided adequate food and care for the animals, and that over time it “had gotten away from him,” prosecutors said.
“He could have sold these animals early on and given them a chance rather than subject them to the horrors we saw when entering the farm,” Parks Miller said.
“His behavior is inhumane and was carried out on helpless animals that did not possess the means to fend for themselves, or speak out against the cruelty. Therefore, we must speak for them.”
Parks Miller said the community came together in the wake of the discovery, including Centre County Commissioner Steve Dershem, who helped get two new SPCA officers from Blair County to enforce animal abuse violations locally.
She urged anyone who sees suspected cruelty to contact authorities.